July 1, 2005

Volume 33
Issue 26


Feb 07, 2016



Section One  
Equal Thirst by Aubrey Sparks
Chapter 36 China Doll
Once Master Q finished giving us all the tour of his house, the guests attending his birthday party seemed to split into three groups. One group was in the living room and the kitchen, talking and laughing. The second group was in the garden debating politics. And the third was in the basement dungeon.

In the garden, I could not follow the thread of the conversation which seemed to come faster and faster. This made the debate unintelligible to me, so I went back into the house. Bob followed me into the basement. The three men there stopped what they had been doing and turned to stare at us. There was obviously already a scene in progress and we were not being invited to join. I smiled. Bob smiled. I said something to be polite and then went back upstairs to the living room. I assumed the men we had interrupted went back to their play. Bob followed me still as we stepped into the living room.

I considered Bob for a moment. I wondered how he perceived the party so far. He does not have the skills to debate politics. In the basement, it was obvious that he knew his leathers were still only a veneer and this seemed to make him nervous. In truth he was rather dull even if he did sometimes seem to show some potential. But because I was getting bored with the party, I found myself wanting to look beyond who he was now. What was hidden away in him?

But my reverie came to a stop when our host announced that he had asked some guests to bring some things to share with the group, He asked for everyone’s attention because it was time to hear what his friends had brought. Looking around the room, Master Q asked a man I had been only just been introduced to but whom I knew had published several books of poetry. He blushed but stood up and recited three beautiful poems. We clapped our hands in thanks. Then our host asked me to be next. I blushed because it was difficult for me to speak now but he had asked me to bring something and I had agreed. I brought a short story. This was the second piece I had written since my stroke and the name of it was “Leaves.”.

I began to read this story to the group:

“It is a warm autumn day. Still she has a light coat and likewise a cap and her boots. It will be very cold as soon as the light goes down for the evening. A murder of crows race across the steel sky. Three people are playing with a red ball. Two people are sitting on a bench, in love and they are eating warm sausages with rolls. Jane is walking up the small hill in the center of the park to look around at all the people with each other. Alone, she sets the picnic basket down. There is a gust of wind and the leaves twist around until one falls onto Jane’s jacket. The brown maple leaf looks beautiful on the ochre wool. She picks up the leaf and for a moment she could throw it to the ground, maybe crumbling it. But she holds it in two fingers as she looks at its veins and its edges. She smiles and puts it among the items in the picnic basket.

“Jane takes a blue blanket from the wicker basket, unfolds it, and then spreads it onto the ground. She takes rocks from the garden’s edge and puts them around the edge of the blanket so it will not blow away. Jane reaches into the basket and brings out a photograph of her family. It is a holiday photograph. They all wear their formal clothes. They are smiling because the photographer has told them to do it. The picture has a plastic frame made to look as though made of gold, but the edge has been chipped and there is a scar. Something has happened to it. In the photo, Jane’s mother sits in a chair, Jane stands to the left of her, and her sister is to the right. Her father stands behind her with his hand on her shoulder.

“Her father never knew the difference between speeches and conversations. He talked fast and loud. It was like a workshop. Everyone would remain silent and they watched as he explained everything, such as making tea, or painting the walls, or gardening, or which was the correct mustard for sandwiches.

“If there had been mayonnaise in her sandwich, her mother would become angry because she was terrified of salmonella. But even when she shouted, her mother seemed so quiet that you could not remember her ideas or mistakes. She kept the house very clean.

“Her sister closed the door to her room. The door was always closed. She was a vegetarian.

“The family went walking every Sunday afternoon. In the winter, they went to the theater to watch movies. In the summer, they went to the park. They took a picnic basket. The sandwiches inside it were built from lunch meat that tasted as though the animal it came from screamed when it was butchered, and built from jaundice-yellow mustard and whitely industrial bread. But no mayonnaise. People had been hospitalized with food poisoning because the mayonnaise in their sandwiches had been left on the table during a hot day.

“They were all silence as he talked - talked - talked. But now the house is quiet.

“Jane puts the photograph on the closest edge of the blanket, next to a rock. Jane reaches into the basket again and pulls out a stuffed bear. It is brown and soft with a red ribbon around its neck. Her mother bought it for Jane’s last birthday. After a few minutes, she sits it on the blanket to the left of the family photograph. Next from the basket comes a doll with a happy face. The doll’s eyes close to sleep when she lies down and then they open when she stands up. Lay down with the eyes closed. Stand up with the eyes open. Closed. Open. Closed. Jane sits the doll on the blanket next to the bear, next to the photograph. The doll’s eyes were blue. She had been given to a ten-year-old Jane by Jane’s aunt.

“Another leaf falls into the center of the blanket. She pulls from the basket a gray stuffed rabbit which becomes the third item to join the line to the left of the family photograph. It is the brown bear with red ribbon, smiling white doll with blue eyes that can be closed or not and the gray soft rabbit that had been given to Jane by a close cousin who moved away with his family.

“From the basket, the plastic Arabian horse gallops over to the right side

Hugo Overjero
Spanish & English

Leslie Robinson

Glenn Pressel

Paula Martinac

NOTE** finding non clickable links? Sorry these columns are not featured in this weeks edition